Frank Ocean 'Blonde'

It is safe to say that Frank Ocean's sophomore album is one of the most anticipated musical releases of our time. Rumours of a follow-up to 2011's 'Channel ORANGE' have been floating around for almost four years, with cryptic Tumblr and Instagram posts proliferating the web of mystery that has shrouded Ocean and his music over the years. 

After innumerable rumours, umpteen memes and Twitter jokes, and two consecutive rumoured July release dates, 'Blonde, has finally surfaced, quenching everyone's thirst for more Frank Ocean music. With so much discussion and delay, the New Orleans rapper has a lot of expectations to live up to, to the point that one feels somewhat nervous when pressing the 'play' button to listen to the album.

However, it is safe to say that there was no need for such nerves, as Ocean surpasses expectations with this album. Simply put, 'Blonde' is beautiful. It is musically complex and exciting, to the point that it is wonderfully overwhelming, with tracks such as 'Skyline To' and 'Pretty Sweet' best exemplifying this intensity. One of the most marvellous features of the album is that it showcases a brand of hip-hop that is unique to Frank Ocean - no element is predictable, the riffs and beats are addictive, the harmonies are tight, and a range of musical genres are blended flawlessly, including rap, indie, soul and gospel. 

Frank Ocean certainly doesn't slack on the lyrics of 'Blonde' either, with content that critiques and reveals a lot about the society of today. Race, consumerism, relationships, the internet - there are few aspects of life in 2016 that Ocean's lyrics don't touch on.

The lyrics of 'Nikes' are particularly insightful, including Ocean paying tribute to the murdered Trayvon Martin and critiquing decadent materialism, and the recounting of social media's role in modern relationships in the spoken-word track 'Facebook Story' also hits hard. 'Seigfried' is an especially stirring track for young listeners, due to the repeated lines of "I'm not brave" and "Maybe I should settle", demonstrating that Ocean is definitely in touch with millennial fears.

The guest appearances are another successful aspect of 'Blonde' - Yung Lean, Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar are just a few of the names that appear on the album, earning Ocean even more 'cool points' with the Instagram generation. What makes such cameos so successful though is the fact that they are subtle contributions and do not overshadow the man himself, with Beyonce's beautiful yet understated vocals on 'Pink + White' being a particular highlight. 

The earlier statement of 'wonderfully overwhelming' seems to be the best way to describe Ocean's latest offerings - there is so much to process and digest, but doing so is a brilliant musical experience. The years of mystery shrouding the album, the release of the visual album 'Endless' the day before 'Blonde', the musical content like no other; all of these aspects harmoniously come together to make 'Blonde' an intense rollercoaster of an album, but one that is so impossibly beautiful that no one wants it to stop. 

Words Sophie Clark

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